Participation in physical activities for children with cerebral palsy: feasibility and effectiveness of physical activity on prescription

Arch Physiother. 2017 Nov 28;7:13. doi: 10.1186/s40945-017-0041-9. eCollection 2017.


Background: Children with cerebral palsy (CP) are less physically active and more sedentary than other children which implies risk factors for their physical and mental health. Physical activity on prescription (PAP) is an effective intervention to promote a lifestyle change towards increased physical activity in adults in general. Knowledge is lacking about the use of PAP in children with CP. Therefore, the aim of this study was to evaluate the feasibility of PAP for children with CP and its effectiveness on participation in physical activity and sedentary behaviour.

Methods: Eleven children with CP, aged 7-11 years, participated in PAP, consisting of a written agreement between each child, their parents and the physiotherapist and based on Motivational Interviewing (MI), Canadian Occupational Performance Measure (COPM) and Goal Attainment Scaling (GAS). Individual goals, gross motor function and physical activity were assessed at baseline, at 8 and/or 11 months using COPM, GAS, logbooks, Gross Motor Function Measure (GMFM-66), physical activity questionnaires, physical activity and heart rate monitors and time-use diaries. At 8 and 11 months the feasibility of the intervention and costs and time spent for the families and the physiotherapist were evaluated by questionnaires.

Results: The intervention was feasible according to the feasibility questionnaire. Each child participated in 1-3 self-selected physical activities during 3-6 months with support from the physiotherapist, and clinically meaningful increases from baseline of COPM and GAS scores were recorded. Being physically active at moderate-vigorous levels varied between less than 30 and more than 240 minutes/day, and the median for the whole group was 84 minutes/day at baseline and 106 minutes/day at 8 months.

Conclusions: The intervention PAP seems to be feasible and effective for children with CP, involving both every day and organised physical activities to promote an active lifestyle through increased participation, motivation, and engagement in physical activities. Further research of PAP is needed, preferably in a long term randomised controlled trial and including health economic analysis to show costs and benefits.

Trial registration: ISRCTN76366356, retrospectively registered.

Keywords: Cerebral palsy; Children; Participation; Physical activity; Physical activity on prescription; Sedentary behaviour.